There were so many pieces of news last week from Toronto about acquisitions and sales and distribution of movies that I didn’t think much about a story I saw about foreign rights sales for “Night Moves,” a film to be directed by Kelly Reichardt, starring Jesse Eisenbert, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Saarsgard. I did think it seemed like a move up in budget and class for the super indie director Reichardt, who’s best known for minimalist works like “Wendy & Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff.” Now, however, the movie’s in legal trouble.
Deadline reports that producer Edward Pressman and Clarke Abbey, the widow of author Edward Abbey are suing pretty much everyone involved in “Night Moves” (except the cast) because they say that the script, written by Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond, bears too close a resemblance to “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” a 1975 novel by Edward Abbey; Pressman owns the film rights to the novel and is trying to get an adaptation off the ground with Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, (“Catfish,” “Paranormal Activity 3″) set to write and direct.
“Night Moves” is about a group of environmentalists who plan to blow up a dam. “The Monkey Wrench Gang” is about a group of environmentalists who are trying to blow up a dam. Ummm…yeah, well.
The suit charges ““Raymond and Reichardt copied protectable elements of the novel in writing Night Moves and, since they had no authorization from plaintiffs to do so, they thereby infringed the exclusive rights in the novel afforded to plaintiffs under the Copyright Act.”
It’s not easy to prove plagiarism or copyright infringement. Saying someone is telling a story with the same theme or main idea isn’t plagiarism; you have to prove that key details and ideas are the same. So without having read the novel or the screenplay, I can’t make a guess about the outcome, but I would guess that this was not entered into lightly and they must think they have something.
“Night Moves” was supposed to start filming this fall. We’ll see what happens.